New Jersey's feral cat population is at an all-time high, but one group could hold the keys to the solution but many communities are choosing to ignore the idea and are opting for more unconventional methods.

Flickr User Sara Golemon
Flickr User Sara Golemon

Will they work? Experts don't think so.

If you live in the Garden State, chances are you've run across a group of wild cats eating out of the garbage or defecating on sidewalks and on personal property.

Feral cats are different than strays since most are former domesticated animals that are now living on their own - fending for themselves.

Often, feral cats aren't friendly and usually hiss and back away from humans. Sections of North, Central and South Jersey have been dealing with the increased populations for a number of years.

Sterilization Methods Most Effective

Many methods have been tried in the past. The only method that has proven to actually be successful over time is to sterilize the cats so that they stop reproducing.

A female cat can go into heat every 3 weeks and can potentially give birth to 4 litters a year, since the gestation period is around 70 days or 2.5 months.

Each litter is typically three to six kittens, so without sterilization, it is easy to see how the population will never be controlled or reduced.

One method that has been tried and continually fails is feeding bans. There is a misconception that if you stop feeding cats, they will go away. The reality is that they don't go away - and if they do finally go away or die it's not before they have had another litter or two to leave behind.

Even starving cats continue to reproduce.

Feral cats can be more than a nuisance. They damage property, threaten humans and may even carry rabies. The Animal Protection League of New Jersey feels their Project Trap-Neuter-Return method is the best form of control.

"This is the one humane method out there and we are confident it will work. If we keep trying to ban feeding, they will just keep reproducing and coming back," Project Director Sandra Obi says.

Animal Protection League has spoken with a local rescue One by One and with Friends of Southern Ocean County Shelter to come up with a plan of action for this community, where adults will be sterilized and kittens removed for adoption, but so far have been told that the management will "think about it."

Meanwhile cats continue to reproduce and residents continue to be unhappy.

Population control with sterilization makes both groups of people happy - the numbers are being reduced and eventually eliminated, and cats do not have to be treated inhumanely to achieve this goal - its a win win.

An added huge benefit of TNR is that all cats are vaccinated against rabies. This is public health concern that is addressed by TNR and is not addressed by starving the cats.

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